Researchers Find a Way For Your Boss to Make You More Productive

So, that open plan office you hate? It will likely spur you to greater productivity — if you are seated near the right type of people.

In yet another case of a study supporting things you probably already suspect, researchers say whom you sit next to at work matters. But the way it matters might be surprising.

Bloomberg reported on a study by researchers at Harvard Business School and Cornerstone OnDemand which followed 2,000 workers at an unidentified tech company using an open office plan. They looked at productivity and attitudes, which led them to a couple of major findings. One is that seating highly productive people near each other tends to reinforce those qualities and make the areas more productive. The converse was also true: Poor workers tended to create a downward spiral in terms of productivity.

But the research went further. It identified two broad groups of workers: high-productivity, low-quality workers; and slower workers who produce better-quality work. When you seat people from each group next to each other, however, magic happens. The best of both group’s work-style qualities rub off on each other, without the negatives: Slower people speed up, and faster people produce better work.

In spite of the fact that many workers resent the open-plan office space, or so-called “collaborative workspace,” this research indicates how companies can benefit from them.

One of the researchers, Harvard University visiting professor Dylan Minor told Bloomberg:

“This suggests an opportunity,” said Minor. Companies should use the resulting social pressure to get the most out of employees, mixing the two types of workers in the office seating chart. “You can pair some workers of different strengths and you’re not going to destroy those strengths,” added Minor.

How do things work in your open-plan office? Let us know in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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